Earlier this month a delegation of Catholic Bishops from the USA visited Qom in Iran and met with leading Shia clergy from the ‘Supreme Council of the Seminary Teachers’. The American delegation was led by the ever-impressive Bishop Richard E. Pates, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ ‘International Justice and Peace committee’.
The joint declaration reprinted below was an outcome of that meeting. It expresses not only solidarity between Catholics and Shia Muslims but between all ‘peoples of the book’ (Jews, Christians and Muslims). Further, it boldly states a common commitment to humanity, including the goal of dismantling all weapons of mass destruction.
Those who see Iran as a centre of religious bigotry are indeed out of touch. I was in Qom myself earlier this year and had the privilege of visiting the great ‘University of Religions’ located there. It is a unique institution worldwide, I believe, and entirely dedicated to fostering inter-faith dialogue and mutual respect between religious groups. Far from being closed to ‘the West’, my friend Rev. Stephen Sizer (another Anglican priest) was even invited to be on the faculty!
June 14, 2014 —16 Sha’bān 1435 AH
IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE COMPASSIONATE, THE MERCIFUL
The belief in One God unites Jews, Christians and Muslims, and calls us to work for the common good of the whole human family. It is our conviction that human societies need moral guidance and that it is incumbent on us as religious leaders to share the ethical teachings that flow from our respective traditions.
Christianity and Islam cherish a common heritage that emphasizes, above all, love and respect for the life, dignity, and welfare of all members of the human community. We found this in our recent dialogue between Catholicism and Shia Islam. Both of our traditions reject as reprehensible all forms of transgression and injustice. We oppose any action that endangers the life, health, dignity, or welfare of others. Catholicism and Shia Islam hold a common commitment to peaceful coexistence and mutual respect.
These foundational moral values unite us in raising fundamental moral questions regarding weapons of mass destruction. Shia Islam opposes and forbids the production, stockpiling, use and threat to use weapons of mass destruction. Catholicism is also working for a world without weapons of mass destruction and calls on all nations to rid themselves of these indiscriminate weapons.
We call on all societies and persons to respect religion and its role in sharing moral guidance in the public square. As religious leaders, we condemn all forms of disrespect for the religious traditions of others. Just as importantly, we commit ourselves to active inter-religious dialogue that transcends governments and national boundaries and serves the common good of the whole human family. It is our mutual intention to engage in a sustained dialogue based on our shared values.